A Kung-POW of Favor

When I was growing up there was only one Asian restaurant in my hometown.  It was a Chinese joint called The Hunan.  For most of my youth I ate the grilled cheese from their "American Menu" because I've had a lifelong tendency towards being a pretty picky, unadventurous eater.  

Eventually I moved off of the American Menu and fell in love with their Kung Pao Chicken.  It was a winner because (a) I loved chicken, (b) it had minimal-but-familiar vegetables (just celery and peppers usually), and (c) the whole thing is sprinkled with peanuts.  The recipe below is a significantly modified version of one I got from a library colleagues.  We sure dig it at our house.  We can't get enough of the flavors of Asian cuisine.  They are my favorites by far.  Leaps and bounds.  

I will note that this dish is just as tasty without the peanuts.  It is highly adaptable, too, if one doesn't mind breaking with culinary convention.  We often incorporate other vegetables depending on what is on hand or in season.   I like to slow-roast eggplant and toss it with the Kung Pao sauce.  The eggplant soak it up spectacularly.  We're riding the last of the eggplant wave from the garden right now.  They loved our long, hot summer.  We harvested at least 50 lbs.

One big ol' basket of eggplants.  I kept meaning to snap a picture of the actual stir-fry, but have failed every time.  Including today.  Or, if I did remember, I wasn't happy with how the photo turned out.   I am a queen of bad pictures of good food.  Oh well.  These eggplants will have to do... though I can't help but think of Matt's bias against cookbooks that do not include photos.  Maybe I'll remember next time we eat Kung Pao and update this post.  Maybe.  If I think of it.
Kung Pao Tofu     (5-6 servings)

For the sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce (or tamari or Bragg's aminos, or some combo)
1/3 cup vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar (or some combo)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2-3 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek or homemade)
1/2 teaspoon granulated MSG (optional)

For the tofu:
1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the stir-fry:
1-2 vegetable oil, for frying
2 medium bell peppers, chopped
2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 

For garnish:
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 medium scallions or green onions, thinly sliced (optional)

-Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.  
-In a large bowl, toss the tofu in oil until they're lightly coated.  
-Add the cornstarch and toss again until they're well coated.  
-Add to air-fryer and cook until crisp and golden on the outside, about 10-15 minutes.
-While the tofu is cooking, stir-fry the vegetables in a little oil.  
-Add the ginger and garlic when the veg is close to done and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. 
-Add the sauce and cooked tofu to the pan with the vegetables.
-Cook over medium for a few minutes to allow the sauce to thicken and coat everything with flavor.
-Top with peanuts and scallions and serve with rice.


  1. Hi Beth,
    ...we love Kung Pow here too...your recipe looks really good...your eggplants look amazing...
    ~Have a lovely day!


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